The increase in populations is a challenge to all nations
By Joshua Turyatemba
Makerere University on Tuesday, January 15, 2019, held day one of the its four-day graduation ceremony of the 69th graduation ceremony of over 13,000 graduands. These are being release to the same white-collar jobless market.
In relation to this, let me share some story: Two traders were engaged in a business relationship. One day, the teenage son of the Asian goods supplier who was of a similar age to the son of the client, then in his senior six vacation, found him playing a game of pool. They later on got engaged in a big quarrel in which he was accusing him of wasting money. The client’s son reacted that the game cost just sh500, so no big deal. His Asian friend then asked him a simple question, “So to you sh500 is not money?” The source of the argument was the differing cosmos formulated by their nurturing. Ones trajectory was to go to university, graduate and get a job and good salary where sh500 is meaningless. The Asian boy was a world where already every coin counts. They would meet 17 years later when the now Asian man was recruiting for a senior sales job. The moral of the story is not to say Ugandans don’t respect money, but rather what different people chose to prioritise.
From childhood, the community, family and social set up script a certain narrative. One that requires a child to go to school, get good marks, graduate from university and get a good job that would ensure he or she dresses well and has a ‘respectable job’. A narrative that they too had inherited from their observations at the foundation of the country that is Uganda. The people who dressed well, who had the nice houses, drove a car, spoke good English are those that had tried the best to replicate or fit into the system that had been installed by the British colonial masters. And it so happened that the national advent of money as a medium of exchange, the birth of a nation, the ‘modern civilisation’ of its people were all wound up in that single short phase of our history that would forever define our destiny and current matters.
Therefore, whereas some nations such as the Chinese, Indian, Pakistanis, Arabs etc had for centuries owned and interacted with money and its social values that were well etched into their cultures and traditions even before any colonisation or foreign influences would take root, for us things just fell on our heads. All we knew and admired of money were thus its aesthetic effects as exuded by one who earned it. Our adoration and that of our fathers thus focused on attaining the opulent habits of the rich than the unassuming character that almost always defines established wealth. Thus dressing well, wearing an expensive watch, living in an apartment or driving a good car has come to be synonymous with being wealthy even if your bank account is always blinking red. On the other hand, a farmer who adds value to his produce, does not look any of the above but banks sh40m every month is no inspiration for youths because he does not fit their longed for image of exuded success.
And it is here now where we as a nation find ourselves at a critical phase where we must come to terms with the challenges pertaining to youth unemployment and their rigidity towards alternative income generation that is out of the scope of what they have been all along nurtured to expect. To pile up the challenges of a huge youth population and their attendant challenges on government and specifically the NRM government under President Yoweri Museveni is to miss the point.
Globally, the increase in populations is a challenge to all nations. With the almost total elimination of the infant killer diseases, it was just a matter of time before this population boom made its way to the top list of policy makers. Secondly, whereas the premier graduates of this country, especially those between 1962 to around 1994 could expect sure employment in the highly controlled economy and a requisite to expand social and other services to hitherto remote places, it was a matter of time that that progressive recruitment would halt and all possible offices filled.
The question now is how to steer that inherited and nurtured aspiration towards imminent employment to something else that would focus on money making for the youths. The Government interventions such as Youth Livelihood Programme and Operation Wealth Creation have already scored with success with a number of youths. Many of the ‘sophisticated’ youths that are armed with good university degrees though would rather shun these interventions and wait for their dream job. What they don’t want is the embarrassment of engaging in money-making activities that are seen as beneath their status. How can a whole person with a degree in Business Administration be seen in the image of a mechanic repairing cars for people without even half his education. Though that ‘apprenticeship’ is one that would help him someday be the business administrator of his own successful garage. With all these motor owners lamenting about the craftiness of the illiterate mechanics, there is no doubt a garage managed by a holder of a first class B.Com degree would do well.
In a recent symposium organised by OWC, the Kyambogo University Vice Chancellor shed more light to this challenge of preserving ‘graduate dignity’ while encouraging them to engage in money making ventures than wait for years for salary earning opportunities. He pointed out the Nakawa Vocational Training Institute with support from the Japanese and other development partners, is one of the most advanced training facilities in the region for mechanical, electronics technology (laptops, phone repairs etc) with state of the art equipment comparable to similar institutions in South Korea and other countries. Yet graduates keep shunning it for the mere fact that it would be an embarrassment to take on such hands-on skilling having prepared for a bank job that is nowhere on the horizon.
So as multitudes of students graduate from Makerere University and other institutions soon, the only prediction they can ably predict is the unpredictability of life after campus. Throughout childhood and the most productive years of their lives, they have been used to a particular linear progression where as soon as you accomplish one stage, the expected shift is admission to the next chapter. Term one follows term two, form seven follows form six, university follows secondary school. Then comes the pivotal graduation beyond which you are not well prepared for any eventuality.
This can be compared to a train people have regularly taken to particular destinations. Only that this time, the train comes to a dead halt in the middle of the forest, and the passengers must find their way to their next individual destinations. One may start running immediately, one may choose to lament about the situation, one may decide to abuse the driver, one may choose to wait for a good Samaritan. The most unfortunate situation though is to fall prey to the masters of demagoguery and disorientation. Who preach that all their situational problems can be solved with the exiting of President Museveni, but do not show what plans they will implement to achieve 100 percent employment for all graduates and youths in general. The major aim should focus on making money no matter how unappealing at first the venture may be. It may be 10 years later when you can sit down and conclude that the venture was worth it.
The ablest asset you have at this point is the energy and zeal of youth, expend it wisely. Make that every 500-shilling coin count.
Writer works with Operation Wealth Creation